I’m back to my research on 21st Century Political Nuttitude. It turns out Republicans do have a health care plan, and a plan to neuter Barack Obama’s presidency. And the Cheney family feud reveals Republicans’ enduring homophobia. (More)

I almost opened an account at the BPI Credit Union yesterday, to have a place to deposit my checks when Hollywood buys my educational screenplays and I write my book on the War On the Feast of St. Francis. But I found out BPI has no credit union. I’m sure they will by the time my celebrity career gets rolling, so in the meantime I got back to my research on 21st Century Political Nuttitude.

Republicans Do Have a Health Care Plan

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Bashir Live progressive pundits Joy Reid and Jared Bernstein repeated the common claim that Republicans have no health care plan. In fact the GOP do have a health care plan … and progressives should make Republicans try to defend it.

The Republican Study Committee released the GOP’s health care plan back in September. I’ll discuss the details, but here is the key paragraph:

More Americans will gain access to quality health care once its costs are brought under control. The first step in lowering health care costs is to eliminate the unnecessary over-spending in our current system.

You can’t understand the GOP opposition to the ACA, or their health care plan, without understanding that paragraph. Simply, Democrats and Republicans disagree on the underlying problem with the pre-ACA system:

  • Democrats believe the problem was that too many Americans could not afford to see a doctor, except for emergency illnesses or injuries that often left them bankrupt. Democrats believe the ACA will help solve that problem.
  • Republicans believe the problem was that too many Americans could afford to see a doctor, where they received ‘unnecessary’ care that drove up health care demand and thus costs. And Republicans believe the ACA will make that problem worse by allowing even more people to afford ‘unnecessary’ care.

So no, Republicans do not have a plan that will allow more people to have the kind of comprehensive health care that the ACA provides. Instead, their plan would force more people to carefully ration their health care spending:

  • Shift to individual insurance – Most Americans now get health care through their employers, who deduct the employer’s share of the premiums as a business expense. The GOP plan would replace that with a personal deduction of $7500 for individuals and $20,000 for families, for those who buy their own insurance.
  • Shift to catastrophic coverage and HSAs – Many employers offer (and the ACA requires) comprehensive plans that cover routine and preventive care, with relatively low annual deductibles and out-of-pocket caps. The GOP plan favors catastrophic coverage with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket caps, and expects individuals to use Health Savings Accounts to pay for routine and preventive care.
  • Deregulate health insurance – The GOP plan would allow people to buy plans from any insurance company in the U.S., regardless of their own state’s insurance regulations. In effect, this would deregulate health insurance, allowing insurers to exclude preexisting conditions and limit or rescind coverage for people who get sick. The GOP theory is that if people are willing to trade those risks for lower premiums, then government should stay out of the way and let the market decide.
  • Let states and private investors cover the gaps – The GOP plan would provide a total of $25 billion in federal money for states to use in setting up high-risk pools for people with preexisting conditions. The states would have to cover the rest of their high-risk pools. As for the uninsured, Republicans favor letting providers sell unpaid accounts to private investors.
  • Turn Medicare into Obamacare – Finally, Republicans would transform Medicare into an ACA-like program, where seniors receive premium subsidies with a mandate to buy their own private insurance plans.

Andrew Sullivan offers an overview of conservative and progressive pundits’ debates over the GOP plan. The key takeaway is this: under the GOP plan, wealthy people could continue to buy comprehensive insurance and get all the ‘unnecessary’ health care they want. They would also get most of the subsidies, as they benefit most from individual tax deductions. Meanwhile, most hardworking families could afford only catastrophic coverage – with a smaller subsidy because their income is taxed at a lower rate – and would have to self-ration their health care.

Progressives should not let Republicans off the hook by saying “they have no health care plan.” Instead, we should make Republicans defend their wealth-privilege-based health care plan.

“Set to go nuclear?”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is ready to end the filibuster for presidential appointees other than Supreme Court nominees:

At a presser today, Reid told reporters he was taking another look at rules reform, but didn’t give a timeline. The senior leadership aide goes further, saying it’s hard to envision circumstances under which Reid doesn’t act.

“Reid has become personally invested in the idea that Dems have no choice other than to change the rules if the Senate is going to remain a viable and functioning institution,” the aide says. That’s a long journey from where Reid was only 10 months ago, when he agreed to a toothless filibuster reform deal out of a real reluctance to change the rules by simple majority. Asked to explain the evolution, the aide said: “It’s been a long process. But this is the only thing we can do to keep the Senate performing its basic duties.”

Asked if Reid would drop the threat to go nuclear if Republicans green-lighted one or two of Obama’s judicial nominations, the aide said: “I don’t think that’s going to fly.”

Key Senate Democrats are reportedly ready to end the filibuster, in large part because Senate Republicans have admitted they have no specific objections to President Obama’s nominees for the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

For reasons that remain unclear, Senate Republicans have since decided to block Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court, the country’s second-most-powerful court, en masse. “There is no reason to upset the current makeup of the court,” argues Charles Grassley. Democrats have “admitted they want to control the court so it will advance the president’s agenda,” says Mitch McConnell.
The bluntness of the account reveals its radicalism. Previous judicial fights have revolved around the question: How personally or ideologically unacceptable must a judge be to merit rejection? Republicans are now arguing that Obama’s nominating judges to vacancies on the court is illegitimate per se.

In other words, the problem is not that the nominees are unqualified. The problem is simply that Barack Obama nominated them, and Republicans have never recognized his presidency as legitimate.

“We were as close as sisters can be”

So said Mary Cheney, when asked about her relationship with older sister Liz. But then Liz decided to run for the U.S. Senate, and opposition ads began to highlight the Cheney family’s post-vice-presidency support for marriage equality. Liz quickly threw her sister into the wood chipper – “under the bus” is so last year – and thus erupted the Cheney Family Feud.

Fortunately, the sisters have parents to play referee:

“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public,” Dick and Lynne Cheney said. “Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz’s many kindnesses shouldn’t be used to distort her position.”

In other words, Liz doesn’t think her sister’s marriage is legitimate, but she’s shown “many kindnesses” – like not yelling “You’re an abomination and you’re going to Hell!” at family get-togethers – so Wyoming voters should let her continue the Cheney Dynasty.

Good day and good nuts.